Monday, September 18, 2017

How To Grieve Like a Christian

How do Christians grieve? Paul provides helpful instruction and begins with these words: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

 

his life is full of loss and full of grief. Though there are times we experience great swells of joy, we also experience deep depths of sorrow. No sorrow is deeper than the sorrow of loss. At such times it is important to consider how Christians grieve. Christ has Lordship over all of life, even grief. The gospel informs all we do, including our grieving. When dealing with the loss of a fellow believer, it is a privilege to grieve in a distinctly Christian way—to grieve in one way instead of being left to grieve in another way.

What is that way? How do Christians grieve? Paul provides helpful instruction and begins with these words: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

The first thing is this: Grieve! It’s good and right to grieve. We grieve genuinely and unapologetically. Death is tragic; death is sorrowful; it is good to grieve and this text gives us permission to do so. While it’s always important to ask “what does a text say?” it’s equally important to ask, “what does a text not say?” In this verse Paul could have said something like, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve.” He could have ended his sentence there are forbidden all grief. He could have been a good Stoic and insisted that Christians must not waste their time and emotional energy in crying. But no, he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t tell us we must not grieve at all. Rather, he tells us we must not grieve in a certain way. There is a way that Christians must grieve. What is that way?

Grieve hopefully. When Paul says, “you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” he is really saying something like, “we grieve, but not in the same way as all those other people who have no hope.” Or, “even though we do grieve, we grieve differently from those other hopeless people.” Again, we see there’s a distinctly Christian way to express grief. We must not grieve like unbelievers do. What is this Christian form of grieving? Christians experience grief but without despair, sorrow but without defeat, sadness but without hopelessness. It’s true sorrow and true hope. These things don’t cancel out one another. We feel the great weight of sorrow and the great thrill of hope. In moments of deep sadness, we feel both. But why? How? How is it that we can have hope?

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